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Bishop Kicanas Responds

Responding to yesterday's Register blog post, the USCCB vice-president emphatically denies receiving 'any allegation, report or concern' about future abuser Daniel McCormack.

BY TIM DRAKE

| Posted 11/12/10 at 10:09 AM

CNS photo/Nancy Wiechec
 

Next Tuesday, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops will elect their new president. As presiding vice president, Tucson Bishop Gerald Kicanas, is likely to be elected. In response to concerns raised by a variety of media reports, Bishop Kicanas responded to a series of email questions provided by Register senior writer Tim Drake.

The Chicago Sun-Times story, published Nov. 17, 2007 quotes you as saying the following: “It would have been grossly unfair not to have ordained him. There was a sense that his activity was part of the developmental process and that he had learned from the experience. I was more concerned about his drinking. We sent him to counseling for that. I don’t think there was anything I could have done differently.”
Is this quote, to the best of your memory, accurate? Do you take exception with the quote or how it was used?

I do take exception to that quote. It does not accurately reflect what I said and was put into a context that is not accurate. For instance, I would never defend endorsing McCormack’s ordination if I had had any knowledge or concern that he might be a danger to anyone, and I had no such knowledge or concern. At no time while McCormack was a seminarian at Mundelein did I receive any allegation of pedophilia or child molestation against him. I never received any allegation, report or concern about McCormack during his seminary years at Mundelein that involved sexual abuse of anyone. Prior to ordination, each student’s readiness for ordination was discussed at length by seminary administrators, faculty, and the diocesan bishop. Furthermore, McCormack was evaluated, as was every seminarian, each of his four years by faculty and students who were given the opportunity to endorse or not endorse his continuing in the seminary. No student, nor faculty, nor anyone, ever negatively commented on McCormack in all the endorsements he received. With the harm that he has done to children and to families, it is tragic that he was ordained. Would that he had never been ordained.


Once the Nov. 17, 2007 quote appeared, did you offer any kind of public statement regarding the quote and its use by the Chicago Sun-Times? If not, why?

I told news media in Tucson that contacted me about the story right after its publication that the story had inaccuracies.


The WBEZ story appeared October 22, 2010. Did you offer any type of public statement following that story? If not, why?

The assertions in the WBEZ report are factually incorrect. The reporter gave no attribution or sources for the assertions in the report. Further, the reporter misrepresented to the Diocese of Tucson the nature and focus of the report when he contacted the Diocese seeking to talk to me, saying only he wanted to talk about the election of the new president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. That was not what the report was about. The reporter made no attempt to inform me about the assertions in the report prior to its broadcast and publication on the station’s Web site, nor did the reporter allow me the opportunity to respond to the assertions as part of the report. I felt that addressing the report’s considerable deficiencies and violations of good journalistic practice would only serve to bring more attention to it and allow its immediate exploitation by the station that had allowed such a journalistically deficient report to be broadcast.


The Spero News story appeared October 28, 2010. Did you offer any type of public statement following that story? If not, why?

There are many Web sites and blogs that are vehicles for communicating outrageously inaccurate and grossly unfair assertions. I had never heard of this Web site before last week. We do respond to news media reports as we deem necessary. When an inaccurate report begins to be exploited by other legitimate news media without any effort to ascertain the accuracy of the report and without allowing us to respond, we do respond, which is why we were in contact with the Register today.


As rector, were you made aware of any allegations against Daniel McCormack while McCormack was a seminarian at Mundelein Seminary?

At no time while McCormack was a seminarian at Mundelein did I receive any allegation of pedophilia or child molestation against him. I never received any allegation, report or concern about McCormack during his seminary years at Mundelein that involved sexual abuse of anyone.


Can you explain what is documented in the deposition of Cardinal Francis George and the subsequent news stories that cite that you were made aware of three incidents involving Daniel McCormack while he was a seminarian?

I have not read nor do I know any details about the Cardinal’s deposition. I never received any allegation, report or concern about McCormack during his seminary years at Mundelein that involved sexual abuse of anyone.


You said, “I was more concerned about his drinking.” You were more concerned about his drinking than what? Your statement seems to indicate that there were other problems/issues, more than just McCormack’s drinking.

See next answer.


Were you made aware, at any time, while rector, of adult, consensual, homosexual activity on the part of Daniel McCormack, with his peers in the seminary?

Outside the Sacrament of Reconciliation, any sexual experience of a seminarian that the Mundelein seminary administration learned about would have been subject to evaluation and would have been a possible cause for dismissal. First, if any sexual experience of a seminarian involved pedophilia or child molestation, that would have been reported to law enforcement and would have led to the dismissal of the seminarian, disqualifying the seminarian from any possibility of ordination. Second, any sexual experience of a seminarian with another person concurrent to his time at Mundelein seminary would have led to the dismissal of the seminarian. Third, any sexual experience of a seminarian that took place before his admission to Mundelein would have been evaluated strictly in light of the norms in effect at that time. It would have been evaluated to determine if the experience indicated any risk to persons and to determine if the experience indicated that the seminarian would not be able to live out his commitment to a celibate life. Had there been any negative determinations in any of these areas, the seminarian would not have been recommended for ordination.

McCormick was in the seminary for 12 years before ordination. At the high school and college seminary, no concerns, to my knowledge, were ever raised about him. From all reports, he was a good student, a good athlete and was most cooperative.

While McCormack was at Mundelein, a student commented to his counselor that when they were in Mexico studying Spanish, McCormick had been in a bar where they had been drinking and that as they were leaving the bar, McCormack had in public patted a person on the behind over clothing. When the counselor reported that to us, McCormack was called in and was asked to give an explanation. His explanation was exactly as was reported to the counselor by the other seminarian. Neither account indicated any sexual act or intention.

In the course of that discussion, McCormack revealed that while at the college several years before he had had two consensual sexual experiences with peers while they were drinking. He assured us that he had worked this through with his spiritual director and that he wanted to live a celibate life.

Nevertheless, because of the seriousness of his admission about behavior that had occurred in his past, he was sent for extensive evaluation to determine if he could live a celibate life and if there was any concern about his affective maturity. That evaluation indicated that the nature of the experiences he had related was experimental and developmental, although it indicated that drinking might be a concern because the experiences involved drinking. He was further evaluated to determine if there were any alcohol issues.

In reviewing his readiness for ordination, to our knowledge he never had any sexual activity with anyone during his four years at Mundelein, giving confidence that he actually did and could live a commitment to celibacy. While he was at Mundelein, no allegation or report or concern of sexual abuse of anyone was ever made against McCormack.

It is terrible and tragic what happened later in his ministry as a priest.


The integrity and accuracy of these news reports has been called into question. Where have these stories failed and what needs to be said to rectify them?

The WBEZ report, the blog that you referenced and the Register’s blog that elicited our concern are based on the inaccuracies and the out-of-context placement of quotes in the original 2007 newspaper story. The failure of reporters to provide attribution or sources for their assertions and their failure to contact me to provide me with an opportunity to respond to the assertions is very disappointing.